Friday night delight: Wolves turn it on late to beat Cavaliers

On a fan giveaway night when a beach towel bared his name, Timberwolves big man Naz Reid was whacked in the neck accidentally by a teammate and kept shooting and scoring anyway, all the way to a 104-91 victory over Cleveland on Friday night at Target Center.

Aforementioned teammate Rudy Gobert and Reid returned to the lineup from injury on a night when the Wolves at times played small and moved the ball all over. They did so to the tune of 27 assists and their fourth victory in five games in their chase for first place in the Western Conference.

Minnesota is now 48-22, its most victories at this point in season since the 2003-04 season that resulted in a trip to the Western Conference Finals.

Leading by single digits with less than three minutes remaining, Gobert tried to clear a free ball out of danger — and struck Reid in the head instead.

"It was a wild elbow," Reid said playfully. "He's lucky. He got away with one earlier, too. But I'm not going to say too much."

Asked where Gobert struck him, Reid said, "In my throat, got me in the throat. I was cool. He got me, but it wasn't crazy. I was fine."

So fine that Reid simply ran down the floor and finished off a play in transition with a right corner three-pointer that gave the Wolves a 99-87 lead with 2:26 left, thanks to an assist from teammate Anthony Edwards.

"I just wanted to wake him up a little bit," Gobert said. "I think my elbow hit his mouth and then I saw blue. I saw it was a blue jersey. Damn, but it's part of the game. Naz is tough, a tough guy."

The Cavaliers never pulled closer than 10 points in a game when they played without star Donovan Mitchell and the Wolves went forth without All-Star Karl-Anthony Towns.

It was Reid's third and final three-pointer of the night. The Wolves as a team made 14 threes before a sellout crowd announced at 18,024.

Reid started at power forward next to Gobert at center, rather than his usual sixth-man spot, but then gave way to Kyle Anderson to start the second half because Wolves coach Chris Finch said he didn't want Reid picking up a "cheap" fourth foul that would ruin his rhythm the rest of the night.

"It was a really good pass by Ant, he did a really good job, and Naz was shot ready," Finch said. "Good to see that one go in because he has missed some really good looks earlier."

BOXSCORE: Wolves 104, Cleveland 91

NBA standings

Fans chanted his full name throughout the evening, after they had received the blue beach towels that were part of the team's new lake-themed city edition uniforms this season.

"He has been an incredible story here, from Day 1," Finch said. "How he's changed his body, kept growing his game, plays with so much confidence and energy. Whether he starts or comes off bench, teammates love him. His rebounding. He has so much skill. It's fun to watch get better all the time."

Asked afterward about the "Naz Reid" chants that resounded around the arena, Reid said: "Amazing, something you dream about, especially at this level in the NBA. That's love. So much support. Everybody know how hard I've worked since Day 1 till now and more to come."

Reid was undrafted out of Louisiana State in 2019, but he spent summers in Minnesota improving his body and his game.

"Naz doesn't get fazed too much," veteran point guard Mike Conley said. "He does what he does. He has been huge for us, obviously. It's good to get all our guys back and hopefully, we get KAT back soon."

Reid came with greetings from his hometown of Asbury Park, N.J., home to another star nicknamed "The Boss," Bruce Springsteen.

"For me, it's like how long it has been going on," Reid said. "People notice it now, but since my rookie year, it has been a thing. For me, it's how long it has been going on. That's just love."